How To Make It Through The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

Contributor: Megan Riley, Marketing Coordinator at Inner Door Center®

christmas-515939_640The holiday season is now in full swing which means many gatherings involving substantial meals. Cue the ham and turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and rolls! Individuals with eating disorders may not know how to cope during this time.

There’s a lot of pressure and stress from family members, emotions and unhealthy food options. One aspect that will help in healthy holiday habits is mindfulness.

What Does Mindfulness Mean During the Holidays?

Psychology Today defines mindfulness as, “A state of active, open attention on the present. Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience,” (

It’s important for individuals who suffer from eating disorders to remember this in the holiday season so they don’t become overwhelmed with what is in front of them.

The Snowy Weather

The holiday season isn’t the only thing to blame for pressure and overeating, but the weather as well. Think about it: what is better than curling up on the couch, on a snowy day, with a big bowl of hearty soup?

In fact, during the winter, the desire for more hot foods, meats and overall heavier meals becomes more noticeable. This is a perfect example of the body’s innate desire to generate balance between the internal and external.

Often this desire can turn into habitual overeating and discomfort during the holidays if mindfulness is forgotten. For someone with an eating disorder, these behaviors can develop into negative thoughts and emotions towards themselves, taking away from the moment, and further spiraling down a less desired path.

Avoiding the Downward Spiral

In order to avoid this downward spiral, turn the focus toward the lifestyle shifts that will promote a healthy eating behavior during the holiday season. Engage in regular introspection, respond to the most genuine needs, and remember that there isn’t a hurry, so take the time to fully enjoy the meal.

Sometimes a break is needed from all the festivities. It’s okay to skip a party, or come late. Yoga is a great way to relax and become mindful if overwhelmed. It’s important for individuals to take time to focus on the moment and their bodies. This will cause them to become aware of their thoughts and feelings within their minds and bodies.

Applying Mindfulness to the Holiday Season

1So how does someone start applying mindfulness this holiday season? Follow these practices during the upcoming holiday celebrations to help establish self-confidence, and really appreciate what the holidays are all about.

Checking With Yourself First

First, it’s understandable that it can be overwhelming during family get-togethers due to all of the decadent food choices presented, as well as the pressures that come from family. Take a moment, breath deep, and check-in with.

Ask “What am I actually hungry for?” The truth is, by taking that moment, one may find that they are not physically hungry, and that they may be emotionally hungry, or even visually hungry.

Coping with Loneliness & Stress

During the holidays, feelings of loneliness may present themselves, and hunger may be representative to needing for emotional fulfillment. Or one may become stressed, as most are during the holidays, and food may offer a euphoric relief.

It is very common, during the holidays that one’s emotional feelings become intertwined and mistaken for physical hunger. Taking that moment, before plating, allows an individual to identify their true cravings, and may then find that foods become more fulfilling and satisfying.

Offering Gratitude

Offering gratitude is another way to be mindful during those holiday gatherings. As an individual is presented with the gleaming delight of the holiday buffet, they should take a moment and pause to connect to their feelings.

Do they feel abundance or excitement? Give thanks for the experience. This will promote a richer dining experience, by reminding them to appreciate and savor the delicious food choices.

Slowing Down

firs-235169_640The most important thing to remember? Slow down during the dining experience. Slowing down while eating has such a profound impact on the dining experience and one’s well-being. Try putting down the fork between bites and try to fully chew the food, noticing all the flavors and textures that present themselves.

This will further connect an individual to their meal, as well as their body’s signal of satiety. By doing this they will begin to recognize and respect the limits of their body and it’s always important, regardless of what time of year, to respect their body.

Holiday Giving

During the holidays, giving is receiving. How about making a contribution to the decadent holiday buffet? Typically, the spread is loaded with rich and heavy options that may leave someone feeling fatigued and groggy. Try planning ahead and share more healthful options with others.

By bringing a dish that is a bit lighter than the other food choices, a healthful balance is created that is sure to leave a satisfied feeling and more in tuned with the body’s desires.

Setting an Intention

Finally, set an intention for the meal. Inner Door Center® does this with their program clients during lunch, and the clients feel that they get more out of the meal both emotionally and nutritionally. Setting an intention is a common practice in yoga, which is a large part of the program at Inner Door Center®.

Basically, individuals ask themselves what they want to get out of the experience today, at that moment. Doing this during the meal allows for them to transfer that energy to the table, and allows them to decide how they want to give to themselves during each meal.

It is a large part in yoga to “live in every moment, both on and beyond the mat”, that even means during meal times. Remember a meal doesn’t just feed the body nutritionally, but emotionally as well.

Enjoy the holidays!

To learn more about incorporating mindfulness in your life, contact the Inner Door Center at (248) 336-2868 for more information on our treatment programs or visit

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are ways that you maintain mindfulness during holiday gatherings? Do you have favorite healthy recipes you share?


  1. What is mindfulness?. (n.d.). In Psychology Today. Retrieved from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 18th, 2014
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